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Bills to expand net-metering killed by Senate panel

HELENA — A state Senate committee Thursday put the kibosh on two bills that would expand “net metering,” which is meant to offset the cost of installing solar-power systems in Montana.

January 29, 2015 6:15 pmLoading…
House Republicans splitting Bullock's infrastructure bill

House Republicans splitting Bullock's infrastructure bill

HELENA — House Republicans said Thursday they are splitting Gov. Steve Bullock’s single infrastructure bill into at least seven separate bills and would eliminate most of the governor’s proposed use of bonding to finance projects.

January 29, 2015 2:30 pmLoading…
Engstrom, Cruzado update committee on higher-ed accountability measures

Engstrom, Cruzado update committee on higher-ed accountability measures

HELENA — The commissioner of higher education and presidents of Montana State University and the University of Montana told a legislative budget panel Thursday they are delivering on the accountability measures required by the Legislature in 2013. 

January 29, 2015 2:08 pm Photos

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More GOP income tax bills tossed into the mix

More GOP income tax bills tossed into the mix

HELENA — Republican lawmakers added two more bills to their tax-cutting mix Thursday: One that chops state income tax rates and another that overhauls and simplifies the income tax, with fewer brackets and lower rates.

January 29, 2015 11:15 am Photos

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Bullock urges closing of wage gap

HELENA — Citing his mother’s experience, Gov. Steve Bullock put in a strong pitch to legislators Wednesday for his administration’s bills aimed at helping women close the wage gap with men in Montana.

January 28, 2015 9:00 pmLoading…
GOP senator blasts Bullock public works plan as too much, too late

GOP senator blasts Bullock public works plan as too much, too late

HELENA — A Republican Senate leader on Wednesday night called Gov. Steve Bullock a Johnny-come-lately when it comes to investing in Montana’s infrastructure.

January 28, 2015 8:00 pm Photos

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Bullock’s State of State: A Montana where we help others, while we succeed

Bullock’s State of State: A Montana where we help others, while we succeed

Gov. Steve Bullock, in his second State of the State address, said Montana is prospering overall – but called on the 2015 Legislature Wednesday night to use the tools of government to help fellow citizens who are struggling.

January 28, 2015 8:00 pm Photos

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K-12 school funding bill advances early this session

K-12 school funding bill advances early this session

HELENA — The 2015 legislative session’s major school-funding bill, increasing state spending on public schools by $54 million the next two years, won easy endorsement Wednesday from the Montana House.

January 28, 2015 2:35 pmLoading…
Election officials pitch online voter registration

Election officials pitch online voter registration

HELENA — State and local election officials endorsed a bill Wednesday to allow citizens to register to vote online if they have a valid Montana driver’s license or card identification card.

January 28, 2015 2:30 pmLoading…
House endorses bill giving governor more power over clemency for convicts

House endorses bill giving governor more power over clemency for convicts

HELENA — The Montana House on Wednesday endorsed a bill giving the governor power to overrule the Board of Pardons and Parole on clemency decisions for felons — a measure spurred in part by the case of convicted murderer Barry Beach.

January 28, 2015 2:22 pm Photos

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Bullock fundraising for nonprofit formed to promote his early-education plan

Bullock fundraising for nonprofit formed to promote his early-education plan

HELENA — As Gov. Steve Bullock pushes his proposal to publicly fund preschool, he’s getting help from a new nonprofit group that has hired a public-relations firm — and he’s helping the group raise money.

January 27, 2015 5:50 pmLoading…

House OKs $120 million in tax cuts

HELENA — On largely party-line votes, the Republican-controlled House on Tuesday endorsed two bills to cut taxes by more than $120 million dollars over two years.

January 27, 2015 3:57 pmLoading…
University executives, students back bonding for projects

University executives, students back bonding for projects

HELENA — Students joined with top university system officials in endorsing $53 million in proposed bonding for long-range building projects on multiple campuses.

January 27, 2015 1:44 pmLoading…
Top GOP legislator pitches modest property tax cut

Top GOP legislator pitches modest property tax cut

HELENA — A top Republican legislator pitched another tax-cut bill Tuesday, for a modest, across-the-board cut in state property taxes.

January 27, 2015 11:55 amLoading…
Bill requiring legislative approval to expand Affordable Care Act prompts health care debate

Bill requiring legislative approval to expand Affordable Care Act prompts health care debate

HELENA — A Republican’s proposal to block any expansion of the Affordable Care Act in Montana without legislative approval prompted a miniature debate on health care reform Monday, as Democrats attacked the measure for blocking health care solutions.

January 26, 2015 5:29 pmLoading…
Citing lack of support, McCulloch drops vote by mail bill

Citing lack of support, McCulloch drops vote by mail bill

HELENA — Because of the lack of support, Secretary of State Linda McCulloch is dropping her bill to require nearly all Montana elections to be conducted by mail.

January 26, 2015 4:44 pm Photos

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Gas tax, other items on the agenda for Legislature this week

HELENA — The Montana Legislature will begin its fourth week on Monday with a full slate of hearings on a variety of bills coming up.

January 25, 2015 6:00 amLoading…
Legitimate questions and politics collide with welfare whistleblowers

Legitimate questions and politics collide with welfare whistleblowers

HELENA — In an unusual turn at the Legislature last week, three “whistleblower” state workers showed up in Helena to allege serious problems with the state’s processes to verify and approve welfare benefits.

January 25, 2015 6:00 am Photos

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Taxing and spending: How much money is coming in and how will it be spent

Taxing and spending: How much money is coming in and how will it be spent

HELENA — Expect a debate at the Capitol over how much tax revenue the state can expect to collect this year and the next two fiscal years.

January 24, 2015 6:45 pm Photos

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House committee advances income tax cut bills

HELENA — The House Taxation Committee on Friday endorsed two Republican bills opposed by the Bullock administration that would provide millions of dollars of one-time and permanent state income tax cuts.

January 23, 2015 6:15 pmLoading…
Plan would help small business pay for health insurance

Plan would help small business pay for health insurance

HELENA — Business owners, including a Republican state senator, turned out Friday to support a plan by Democratic state Auditor Monica Lindeen to extend and possibly expand a program helping more than 1,100 small businesses pay for employee health coverage.

January 23, 2015 3:38 pmLoading…
Bill giving governor more power over clemency for inmates advances easily

Bill giving governor more power over clemency for inmates advances easily

HELENA — A bill giving the governor power to overrule the Board of Pardons and Parole on clemency decisions — spurred in part by the case of convicted murderer Barry Beach — easily advanced to the House floor Friday.

January 23, 2015 11:06 am Related Loading…
Lawmaker wants to raise gas tax by 5 cents a gallon

Lawmaker wants to raise gas tax by 5 cents a gallon

HELENA — A Missoula lawmaker has introduced a bill to raise the state’s tax on gasoline by a nickel a gallon, dividing the proceeds between local streets and roads and public transportation.

January 22, 2015 7:30 pmLoading…

Senate OKs bill on how top political cop is picked

HELENA — The Senate on Thursday endorsed a bill changing how the state commissioner of political practices is chosen and adding certain qualifications.

January 22, 2015 7:15 pmLoading…

State's computer system down for 10 hours

HELENA — Access to the Montana state government’s computer system in Helena got knocked out by a hardware problem Wednesday evening for about 10 hours, state computer officials said.

January 22, 2015 4:34 pmLoading…
Restricted driver’s license bill turned down

Restricted driver’s license bill turned down

HELENA — In an unusual move, the Senate on Thursday rejected a bill it had earlier endorsed to allow restricted-use driving permits to be issued to people who meet certain conditions after they have had their licenses revoked after drunken driving convictions.

January 22, 2015 3:49 pmLoading…
Ohio governor talks about Medicaid expansion, federal budget

Ohio governor talks about Medicaid expansion, federal budget

HELENA — Ohio Gov. John Kasich visited the Montana Legislature Wednesday to promote a federal balanced-budget amendment — but also got into why he supported expanding Medicaid in Ohio.

January 21, 2015 8:45 pmLoading…
GOP bill: Hire outside vendor to check for welfare fraud

GOP bill: Hire outside vendor to check for welfare fraud

HELENA — A Republican state senator from Billings Wednesday presented a key piece of GOP plans to reform Medicaid and public-assistance programs in Montana: A bill to hire an outside contractor to verify the eligibility of welfare applicants.

January 21, 2015 8:30 pmLoading…
Restricted-use driver license bill advances

Restricted-use driver license bill advances

HELENA — The Montana State Senate, on a preliminary vote Wednesday, approved a bill to allow restricted-use driving permits to be issued to drivers who have had their licenses revoked after drunken-driving convictions.

January 21, 2015 4:24 pmLoading…
Montana’s congressional delegation reacts to Obama's speech

Montana’s congressional delegation reacts to Obama's speech

HELENA — Montana’s congressional delegation split along party lines Monday night with Democratic Sen. Jon Tester praising President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, while Republican Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Ryan Zinke criticized the president.

January 20, 2015 7:32 pm Photos

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Bill advances to publish state phonebooks

HELENA — The Senate on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a bill to require state government to again publish a phone directory every two years listing all state employees, their phone numbers and email addresses.

January 20, 2015 6:45 pmLoading…
House Republicans, governor's revenue director disagree on tax cuts

House Republicans, governor's revenue director disagree on tax cuts

HELENA — Hearings on three bills by Republicans to cut taxes prompted discussions Tuesday on whether the money should be returned, how it should be distributed and if it would stimulate the economy.

January 20, 2015 5:31 pm Photos

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Former Board of Pardons and Parole chairman Mike McKee

Former Board of Pardons and Parole chairman Mike McKee

Former Board of Pardons and Parole chairman Mike McKee testifies Tuesday against a bill that would give the governor more power over the executive clemency process. Under current law, the board can prevent the governor from ruling on clemency in any non-capital case.

January 20, 2015 1:19 pm
Margie McDonald

Margie McDonald

Rep. Margie MacDonald, D-Billings, speaks in favor of her bill, House Bill 43, which would give the governor more power to consider or grant executive clemency to convicted felons in Montana. MacDonald said HB43 will restore checks and balances between the governor and the Parole Board, whic…

January 20, 2015 1:17 pm
Bill to restrict parole board’s power over clemency gets wide support at hearing

Bill to restrict parole board’s power over clemency gets wide support at hearing

HELENA — Amber Foster told a legislative panel Tuesday when she tried to get her husband’s rape conviction pardoned, the state Board of Pardons and Parole all but ignored her — and she’s the “victim” of the crime.

January 20, 2015 1:10 pm Photos

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Richard Opper

Richard Opper

Richard Opper, director of the state Department of Public Health and Human Services, tells a legislative budget panel Monday that the agency’s computerized system that verifies welfare benefits is working and being improved. The panel subpoenaed current and former state welfare officers to t…

January 20, 2015 6:58 am
Three state health officials

Three state health officials

Three state health officials Monday spoke to a legislative budget panel about alleged problems with the state computerized system that verifies welfare benefits. From left are Bob Runkel, manager of the economic security services branch for the state Department of Public Health and Human Ser…

January 20, 2015 6:55 am
Kirsten Brown and John Desch

Kirsten Brown and John Desch

Kirsten Brown, left, and John Desch, who work in the Libby office of the agency that determines welfare benefits in Montana, testified Monday before a state budget panel, saying the two-year-old computerized system that helps verify benefits still has major problems. Brown and Desch were sub…

January 20, 2015 6:57 am
Subpoenaed welfare workers criticize verification system

Subpoenaed welfare workers criticize verification system

HELENA — The accuracy of Montana’s welfare system came under the microscope Monday at the Legislature, spotlighted by rare, under-oath testimony from state workers subpoenaed by Republican legislative leaders.

January 19, 2015 8:00 pm Photos

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Brown and Desch

Brown and Desch

Kirsten Brown, left, and John Desch, who work in the Libby office of the agency that determines welfare benefits in Montana, testified Monday before a state budget panel, saying the 2-year-old computerized system that helps verify benefits still has major problems. Brown and Desch were subpo…

January 19, 2015 4:15 pm
State health officials

State health officials

Three state health officials Monday spoke to a legislative budget panel about alleged problems with the state computerized system that verifies welfare benefits. From left are Bob Runkel, manager of the economic security services branch for the state Department of Public Health and Human Ser…

January 19, 2015 4:16 pm
Richard Opper

Richard Opper

Richard Opper, director of the state Department of Public Health and Human Services, tells a legislative budget panel Monday that the agency’s computerized system that verifies welfare benefits is working and being improved. The panel subpoenaed current and former state welfare officers to t…

January 19, 2015 4:17 pm
Huge gap exists between governor, GOP's Medicaid expansion proposals

Huge gap exists between governor, GOP's Medicaid expansion proposals

HELENA — Gov. Steve Bullock Monday rolled out his administration’s bill to accept federal money to provide health coverage for 70,000 low-income Montanans, saying it’s time to give the proposal “an up-or-down vote.”

January 19, 2015 12:26 pm Photos

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Bills to expand net-metered, renewable-power systems

Bills to expand net-metered, renewable-power systems

HELENA — For firms installing solar-power systems on homes and businesses in Montana, the market is limited — but a coalition of odd political bedfellows at the 2015 Legislature wants to expand it.

January 19, 2015 12:00 amLoading…
Johnson Column: Bullock public works plan draws GOP questions

Johnson Column: Bullock public works plan draws GOP questions

HELENA — Financial and political questions surfaced last week after Gov. Steve Bullock’s nearly $400 million infrastructure bill had its first hearing.

January 18, 2015 3:00 pmLoading…
Lawmakers plan marijuana bills that run the gamut

Lawmakers plan marijuana bills that run the gamut

HELENA — Marijuana once again will be an issue at the Legislature, with a number of bills anticipated, from possibly decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of pot to banning medical marijuana.

January 18, 2015 6:00 am Related Loading…
What's coming up in the Legislature: Medicaid, welfare, taxes, utilities, parole board

What's coming up in the Legislature: Medicaid, welfare, taxes, utilities, parole board

HELENA — The 2015 Legislature kicks into full gear this week, with a packed calendar of hearings and events. Issues topping the agenda include welfare, the state parole board, taxes and utilities.

January 18, 2015 12:15 am Related Loading…

Medical-marijuana bills before the Montana Legislature

HELENA — Here are some of the bills and proposed bills on medical marijuana before the 2015 Montana Legislature:

January 18, 2015 12:00 amLoading…
GOP House committee chairs subpoena welfare workers

GOP House committee chairs subpoena welfare workers

HELENA — Republican chairmen of two Montana House committees have taken the unusual step of issuing subpoenas to state welfare workers to look into allegations that the Bullock administration is qualifying people for welfare benefits without proper verification.

January 16, 2015 7:30 pm Photos

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Democratic senator: To solve mental health, expand Medicaid

Democratic senator: To solve mental health, expand Medicaid

HELENA — If the Legislature really wants to solve Montana’s mental health care crisis, a simple solution exists, a Democratic state senator said Thursday: expand Medicaid.

January 15, 2015 5:21 pmLoading…

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